I'm on my way back from Camelback Ranch after spending 4 days there and catching 5 games total. Here are my impressions of the Dodger new Spring Training Home 3 years in, (as I drive through Arcadia on the 210).
- Fan access is almost as good as Vero Beach. It is organized and it’s fun to watch the players practice. There is close access to both the major and minor league fields. Interaction with the players continues as it did in Florida. There are more restricted areas so wandering around the complex is somewhat limited, but I can hardly blame the Dodger organization for tightening that up. It is my opinion that the open access that presently exists is too liberal. We should enjoy it while we have it because the day will come that somebody that isn’t quite mentally stable will do something that makes the organization re-think the open access policy that currently exists. I hope that I’m wrong, but my somewhat jaded view of society as a whole tends to make me think otherwise.
|Jonathan Broxton signs for a mob of fans, 3/24/11|
- What I found disturbing was that there is no shortage of adults who will trample over a kid in an effort to get an autograph. If I were a player, I’d simply refuse to sign for the many adults there. It is obvious what so many of them are doing as they carry bags with organized cards and photos waiting for signature. It looks to me that some of the players get it and won’t sign for adults, who then cuss them as they walk away after they have ignored an adult with cards, photos, balls, bats, helmets. The memorabilia industry has created these monsters and spoiled things for legitimate collectors that simply want the keepsakes for themselves.
- There is also no shortage of adults that will "pimp out" their young cute kids in an effort to get a signature on a collectible item. I have no problem with that as long as the child is getting the item for themselves, but a 6-year old girl with a metallic silver pen, being instructed to have the player sign on a specific part of the heavy helmet she carried? I saw it with my own eyes, and she really didn’t want to be there.
- The Dodger Dogs are boiled. Puleease! Those things weren't Dodger Dogs, though they were advertised as such. I found that the food options were not anywhere close to as good as those at Salt River Field at Talking Stick (D-Backs, Rockies facility) or at Surprise Stadium (Rangers, Royals facility).
- There are no cup holders in the stadium.
- It would be nice if there was a patio with tables and shade to sit down and eat your meal within view of the playing field. There is something way in the back behind centerfield, but you can't see the field from there. Maybe there is such a place, but I couldn't find it.
- Ticket pricing structure is a bit high considering that you are watching a Spring Training game.
- The Camelback Ranch staff is extremely friendly and helpful. I arrived early each day because I wanted to watch the minor leaguers. Each day as I drove past each parking lot check point, the employees working the lot would wave “hello” as I drove by. At the entry to the complex was an extremely helpful lady handing out maps, answering questions and checking bags. I was impressed with the customer service from the parking lot attendants, security staff, gift shop personnel, ticket office and ushers. Everyone was polite, helpful and overall very nice people.
- I also enjoyed the aisle vendors and their humor and interaction with the fans, ("Ice Cold Beer, as cold as your ex-wife," "Lemonade, Lemonade like Grandma made, Ya gotta have it!"). Those guys were real cut ups.
- No sign of Frank McCourt anywhere. At Vero Beach he was out hob-knobbing with the fans. Not anymore. I didn't expect him there though.
|This isn't a real clear shot of Salt River Field at Talking Stick, but you can see that they actually have a video screen/scoreboard similar to many major league parks. (photo from Mar. 21st game vs. Diamondbacks)|
- I noticed at the other two ballparks that the scoreboards were better quality with more information. They included radar gun readings for the pitches, something that Camelback Ranch doesn't have. Salt River Field has a full blown jumbo-tron video screen which is very impressive.
- The complaints about the parking situation at Camelback Ranch I really didn't see as an issue. Probably because the crowds weren't that big. There is only one open exit from the ball park, which slows the exit of patrons due to a stop light on Camelback Road. Each day I was there, I was able to exit within 10 minutes after getting in my vehicle.
|Minor League Practice Field. Only a handful of fans go there while hundreds await the major leaguers at the practice fields near the stadium.|
- The grounds are pristine and beautiful. They landscaped it with desert friendly flora and there is a pond that separates the Chisox from the Dodger facilities. Practice fields are accessible and I spent each day watching the minor leaguers, away from the mobs of autograph hounds. Interestingly enough, there were some fantastic autograph opportunities for fans in that area had they known anything about past Dodger players that are currently working in the organization. Those that I saw frequenting the minor league fields were: Charlie Hough, Matt Herges, Lenny Harris, Lou Johnson, Don Newcombe, Jody Reed, and even Tom Lasorda.
|Minor League coach Jody Reed looks on. Yes, I thought about that contract he turned down and the resulting DeShields/Pedro Martinez deal.|
- Did I mention that the seats don't have cupholders? Yes, I did. It's worth mentioning again.
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